Call it outcomes, call it impact, call it whatever you like…  But does anyone hear you?

Grantmakers are big on understanding the outcomes of our programs so nonprofits find ways to tell them.  We use a lot of statistics, a few carefully chosen stories and publish them in our annual reports and newsletters (samples here).  We may create some videos hosted by select Board members and upload them to our website.  Unfortunately this creates a dangerous paradox:  Nonprofits measure their results to satisfy funders, instead of seeking information in order to provide better programs and services.

I challenge that it is up to us to raise the bar and be heard.  We are the nonprofit experts.  We know what to do and how to do it.

Today, 75 percent of charities measure some or all of their work, and nearly three-quarters have invested more in measuring results over the last five years.  Let’s be honest – it’s hard work.  Your board of directors want the information but they rarely want to spend any resources to get it.

Well thanks to some friends across the pond and their wonderful report, Code of Inspiring Impact, we finally have some broad principles to apply for focusing on the difference we can make in our communities.

Here is a quick summary to guide you and your board of directors on the journey to inspired impact.

Principle 1 : Plan for impact

Before you can report on anything you need to plan for it.  Each year, you should do an annual review.  Really reflect on what do you need to accomplish to be successful at delivering your mission.  Did you do them last year?  Be specific about what you want to accomplish.  Use power words and specific knowledge that proves you know your business.  Get input from your beneficiaries.  Being closer to your community will help you develop better programs and the money will come.

When developing your plan, match the time and effort needed to the scale of the intended impact.  Don’t recreate systems when adequate information already exists yet make sure that you can get that data.  Data – not emotional stories – is how you want to plan for your impact.  Determine what needs to be measured and when.  Make all of this information part of your plan.  It is always a good idea to focus on the top 3 things or you can get caught up in the minutia and not get anything done.

Now, publish your impact statement.

Principle 2 :Focus on your purpose

Ideally, that impact statement should be published right beneath your mission statement.  It should be part of your culture but you want to be careful to share the information sparingly at first to protect your vision.  Always, always focus on those programs that are relevant to your mission and your proposed impact.

Principle 3 :Everyone takes responsibility

Educate your staff on the impact plan as a whole as well as individually.  Every single role should understand how they can contribute.  Additionally, discuss your impact at all meetings, job descriptions, public forums.  Be specific and track results.  And celebrate as a company when you have achieved something significant.

Principle 4 :Consider the full range of your impact

All too often we don’t look outside our own front door.  I highly encourage you to track feedback from all sources.  Consider what has changed locally and nationally that has or will positively or negatively affected your impact

Don’t forget to step back on a regular basis and look outside your comfort zone.  You might reveal a deeper impact than you thought!

At the end of the day, you have to be genuine about wanting to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Then you must be brave enough to make changes.

Your impact can be measured in bangs or in wows.  Follow these principles and make sure you aren’t a one hit wonder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

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